Monday, 24 March 2008

Lorrie & NNAs

Lorrie Goldstein
said what had to be said Sunday about the National Newspaper Awards and the Sun's long, dry run in nominations and wins.

The heading for his op-ed column: "Why this columnist has had it up to here with the National Newspaper Awards" said it all for Lorrie and a lot of disillusioned Sun Media reporters, columnists and photographers.

Lorrie wrote: "Today's column is a bit 'inside baseball,' but it's been bugging me for a long while and I promise this will be the only time I write about it.

"Earlier this month, the 63 finalists for the Canadian Newspaper Association's 59th annual National Newspaper Awards - Canada's highest journalism honour - were announced.

As usual, the judges collectively gave the back of their hand to the Toronto Sun.

Also, as usual, the Globe, Star and a few other perennially NNA-praised papers picked up their usual slew of nominations. That means their entries were judged to be in the top three of all those submitted in each of 21 categories, the winners to be announced in May. This year, the judges deemed not one entry, either from the Toronto Sun or our sister Suns, worthy of consideration. No surprise there. It's part of a shunning of the Sun that's been going on for many years."

Read all of Lorrie's column. It is not sour grapes. The numbers support his views.

The numbers: From 1971 through 1995, the Toronto Sun won 18 NNAs and received seven honourable mentions. Since 1995, two unsuccessful NNA nominations in 2004.

The lack of NNA wins and minimal nominations since 1995 suggests many talented people still at the Sun have either lost their edge - or NNA judges are biased.

The latter sounds more feasible when you consider previous NNA wins by people still at the Sun: op-ed columnist Peter Worthington (1972 and 1979), editorial columnist Andy Donato (1976), photographers Veronica Henri (1983), Michael Peake (1986) and Stan Behal (1988).

Christie Blatchford didn't win an NNA while at the Toronto Sun, but did at the National Post in 1999; the Sun's late, great Jerry Gladman never won an NNA; ditto for veteran columnists Mark Bonokoski (nominated in 2004), Michele Mandel and others.

And George Gross, considered a legend among North America's sports writers, had a dry run from the time of his 1974 NNA win through 2007? Give us a break.

Lorrie suggests perhaps the NNA thinks less of the tabloid because of the SUNshine Girl, but SUNshine Girls were bigger and bolder on Page 3 during those early winning years.

As Lorrie said in his column, some Sun staffers fed up with the frustration of NNA shutouts have given up trying and, like Lorrie, have stopped submitting NNA entries.

"Don't get me started on the NNAs," a veteran Toronto Sun staffer told TSF the other day.

Politics, elitism or whatever, something is amiss at the Canadian Newspaper Association and we're sure some of Sun Media's competitors, while gloating about their 2007 NNA nominations, agree.

Sun Media does have the Dunlop Awards, annual in-house awards introduced in the late 1980s by founding publisher Doug Creighton to boost morale, which they did and still do.

But on a level playing field, winning in a competition against journalists at major newspapers across Canada is the ultimate win.

We're sure Lorrie's column in the Sunday Sun won't win a 2008 NNA, even if he did enter the national competition for the first time in years. But he said what had to be said for his colleagues, Sun readers and Sun Media.

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